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    Military Cross (G.V.R.), “907 Battery Sergt. Major A.J. Wardill 125 Siege Battery, South African Heavy Ar’G”;
    QSA 1899-1902, 4 bars: Transvaal; Driefontein; Paardeberg; Relief of Kimberley 3442 Pte. J Wardill 6/Drgn: Gds. Entitled to the 4 bars, on 6th Dragoon Guards (Carbineers) roll, 
    KSA 2 bars: SA’01, SA’02, 5357 Cpl. A. Wardill 3rd Drgn: Gds.
    Natal Rebellion Medal bar: 1906 Cpl: A.J. Wardell Lancs. & Yorks. Contg.
    BWM 2nd C/W.O. A.J. Wardill S.A.H.A. .
    AVM (Bil.) 2nd C/W.O. A.J. Wardill S.A.H.A.

    M.C. London Gaz. 1 January 1918. SOUTH AFRICAN FORCE 907 B.S.M. Arthur James Wardill, Arty.
    “For gallant services rendered at Loos between 23rd August 1917 and 24th September 1917 Battery Sergeant Major AJ Wardill of the 125th Siege Battery South African Heavy Artillery was awarded the Military Cross”. 


    (Refer particularly to the 125th Siege Battery’s activities on 24th August 1917 referred to in the extracts set out below).

    9 M.C.’s were awarded to warrant officers out of a total of 453 M.C’s awarded to personnel of South African units during WWI.


    Arthur James Wardhill was born in Kingston on Thames, Surrey in 1878. He was educated at Dr. Lancaster Richmond School in Richmond. After WWI Wardhill was employed by the South African Chamber of Mines.

    According to his service papers he served with the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabineers) from 1896-1902, (although his medals indicate service with both the 5th and 3rd Dragoon Guards). He purchased his discharge in South Africa upon the conclusion of the Boer War. Wardill subsequently served with the Lancs. & Yorks. Contg. during the 1906 Zulu Rebellion for 3 months. He subsequently attested to the South African Heavy Artillery in August 1915 for service overseas.

    During the Boer War Wardill was promoted to Cpl. by the Commander in Chief (S.A.) (Lord Kitchener) in terms of his Despatch dated 22 March 1902, “for gallantry in the field” (in the Ermelo district).


    The citation indicates that “Pte Wardill galloped amongst the enemy and captured five of them in the presence of a large number”.


    An extract from the 125th Siege Battery South African Heavy Artillery’s unpublished History (pages 21-24) indicates the circumstances for which Battery Sergeant Major Wardill was awarded his M.C.Loos

    “On the evening of the 23rd August 1917 the order to move was received and No.’s 1, 2, & 3 guns were taken into the ruins of Loos where they were brought into action at 4 a.m. on the following morning (this being 24th August 1917). For its extreme mobility on this occasion (24th August 1917) and its subsequent good work in the Operations at Loos the Battery was specially mentioned in the Army Commander’s report.


    The movement in progress was the attempt of the Canadian Infantry to supplement the capture of Hill 70, and further to advance their positions to the north of Lens, part of an encircling movement by which the pinching out of that place was contemplated. It was on the night of the 23rd August 1917 that the German and British Infantry attacked simultaneously and the meeting in no-man’s land resulted in a stalemate.


    Here the guns were forward of the Field Artillery; they were in constant action day and night and were subject to a heavy retaliatory bombardment which succeeded in smashing up No.’s 1 and 3 on the morning of the 26th August 1917, besides destroying a limber and a quantity of ammunition and stores. 

    It was owing to the existence of a considerable trench system here that the avoidance of casualties was no doubt due, but a good deal of mischief resulted from the enemy’s gas shells. Platforms were laid in broken houses about 400 yards nearer the German line, and on the 29th August 1917 No. 1 (after repair) and No. 2 were brought into action by observation from the ruins of a two storied house immediately behind the guns.


    This position was, however, quickly located by the enemy and the guns were got away on the 1st September 1917, fortunately without serious damage, though the pits were demolished by intense shell fire. 

    The whole neighbourhood seemed to be dominated by Wingles Water Tower, some 6000 yards away from which the enemy maintained observation on the Lens Road, making it unhealthy for small parties and even for single wayfarers.


    Rest Billets had been taken up in an extensive dugout excavated in the Loos slagheaps, which, though safe from shell fire, was insanitary and uncomfortable and not impervious from gas. Here the Battery fatigue parties were on occasion disconcerted by the short shooting of British 18 pounders. Upon the removal of the guns into pits dug in the trenches to the west of the Bethune Road, where the Battery was rejoined by No. 4 gun, the slagheap was abandoned and old dugouts in the vicinity of the guns were cleared and occupied.


    On the 5th September 1917, the enemy drenched the position of Loos with gas maintaining his bombardment from these for four hours. Twenty eight casualties resulted. In all positions at Loos the cables were continually cut by shell fire and the work of the Signalling Section was carried on under the greatest difficulty. In the first two positions indeed, the guns were the foremost in the line, of any calibre, the position was subject to machine gun fire, and the strain upon the Battery was a heavy one.


    One gunner was captured by the enemy. Presumably, he wandered past the position in the dark and strayed into the German lines some 1300 yards distant. On the 9th September 1917 the guns were manned by the RGA and the personnel of the Battery proceeded to Bethune for 10 days on rest.


    On 21st September 1917 the Battery returned to the guns and until it left the position on the 8th October 1917 it was constantly shelled with both high explosive and gas, causing much damage to material.


    On the 24th September 1917 the wireless apparatus was brought down; and when the four guns were pulled out and taken into Bethune not one of them was fit to go into action, all having suffered from a parting bombardment of great intensity and accuracy. 


    For service in this position, (i.e. at Loos between 23rd August and 24th September 1917), the Office Commanding (Major RPG Begbie) and the Battery Sergeant Major (AJ Wardill) were awarded Military Crosses”.


    An extract from The History of the South African Forces in France by John Buchan (pages 271-272) offers some further details regarding the activities of the 125th Siege Battery S.A.H.A.


    “The 125th Battery was first organized on April 4, 1916, under the command of Major RPG Begbie. It arrived at Havre on … July 1916, and reached the third Army area on 26th July 1916, during the fourth week of the First Battle of the Somme. Its position was at Sailly-au-Bois, on the extreme left of the battle ground, where its principal targets were the German batteries at Puisieux, Bucquoy and Grandcourt. 

    On 19th October 1916 it moved to the eastern edge of Englebelmer Wood where it was attached to Sir Hubert Gough’s Fifth Army. Here it “prepared” and participated in the attack on Beaumont-Hamel. It was a difficult task, for its gun positions were remote from the road, and every 100lb. shell had to be carried some 400 yards through a swamp, until eventually a line of rails was laid.


    On January 20th, 1917, the Battery was moved to a new position on the Auchonvillers Road, half a mile north of Mailly–Maillet, where for the next few weeks it was engaged by enemy batteries and a German heavy calibre naval gun, and suffered many losses. On 22nd February 1917 it moved into Beaumont Hamel, where it had better quarters. 

    On 22nd March 1917, over impossible roads, the Battery moved north to Arras, where its first position was beside the Faubourg d’ Amiens. On the second day of the battle of Arras it moved east to St. Sauveur, and on 16th April 1917 it went forward a mile east of Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, on the Arras–Cambrai Road. Here it was much exposed, and three days later it moved back to the wood of Tilloy.


    For the next month its guns were constantly in action by day and night. On 11th May 1917 it pulled out for a much needed rest, during which time it received reinforcements which brought it up to strength. On 18th June 1917 it moved to Roclincourt, in the Oppy section, where the first leave to England was granted.

    On 21st July 1917 it took up position at Vermelles–Les–Bethune, in the Lens area. Here it came under the First Army, and from the 15th to the 23rd August 1917 was heavily engaged in supporting the attack of the Canadians on Hill 70, east of Loos. On the evening of the latter day (23rd August 1917) it moved forward into the ruins of Loos, and rendered brilliant service in action on the 24th August 1917.

    Its cables were constantly cut by shell fire and on the 5th September 1917 it had 28 casualties from a deluge of German gas shells. The personnel of the Battery were withdrawn to rest between the 9th and 21st September 1917, but from the latter date till 8th October 1917 it resumed its work in that section. When the four guns were brought back to Bethune, it was found that only one was fit for further action. 

    The Battery was now attached to the Belgium Army as one of the thirteen siege batteries constituting the XIV Corps Heavy Artillery. Its position was in the swampy country in the neighbourhood of Steenvoorde and Oostkerke. On 3rd December 1917 it moved to the La Bassee area, and rejoined the First Army taking up position at Annequin.


    On January 9th 1918, there came a short space of rest near Lillers. Major Begbie handed over the command to Major J.G. Stewart, and the Battery became part of the 44th (S.A.) Brigade”.

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